In a city once filled with performances now silenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, Minneapolis’ Mixed Blood Theatre is using this time as an opportunity to present their artists’ talents in a new way.
MBT introduced Mixed Blood Responds, a campaign inviting and elevating the voices of local artists as they cope with the impact of the police killing of George Floyd and subsequent unrest. The theatre contracted a racially diverse group of local artists to present their interpretations of anti-racism, unity and suffering. Their creations have been displayed on the theatre’s webpage and social media platforms.
“Mixed Blood is a theatre company that was formed on social justice and reacting to equity, diversity and inclusion,” said Catherine Campbell, MBT production manager. “Since we won’t be producing theatre for a little while until things are more approved and in place, we are asking, ‘How can our location amplify what’s needed in Minneapolis and Cedar-Riverside?’”
MBT is currently commissioning 10 BIPOC artists to amplify their experiences as people of color living in Minneapolis. The exhibit consists of poetry, songs, dances and short films, Campbell said.
So far, five pieces have launched, and MBT hopes to extend it further if they receive more funding to pay the artists for their work.
“There’s been good feedback, and people are taking an interest in it,” Campbell said. “Some people have said that if we need support commissioning the artists, there is some interest in that sector as well, which is very exciting to keep art moving when it could be silenced during this time.”
Sisco Omar, MBT Cedar-Riverside community organizer and commissioned artist, said many youth poets in the neighborhood are currently working on a documentary-style video. The video will highlight a few exceptional residents in Cedar-Riverside.
Campbell said the initiative aims to repurpose MBT to serve the community while the facility is unable to run shows.
“We are thinking about how we can continue to support people by running this marathon and not just sprinting for two weeks and just dropping,” Campbell said. “We stand in solidarity with these artists and we agree that Black lives matter, so please join us in informing yourself and reflecting beyond just the one moment that happened.”
Commissioned artist Isabella Star LaBlanc is a Dakotan woman who focused her piece on Indigenous support for the Black Lives Matter movement. She said she hopes her short film will highlight similarities between the struggles of Indigenous peoples and Black Americans because of their shared histories. She added that BIPOC communities are in a unique position to support each other.
“I think that Mixed Blood is really walking the walk right now … in a time when a lot of other theatres are deciding that they want to go dark,” LaBlanc said. “I think Mixed Blood is doing a great job at adapting and setting up a world where we figure out other ways to support each other during times of crisis.”